Drone makers turning to farmland

Updated: 2015-12-07 07:01

By CHENG YINGQI(China Daily)

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Drone makers turning to farmland

A group of people pose for a picture by using a drone camera in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China's drone producers are heading to the countryside as the government steps up restrictions on drone management in cities.

A provisional regulation on operating light-duty civilian drones, which will ban small unmanned aerial vehicles from delivering packages to urban residents, is being drafted by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The news was disclosed by an executive from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China earlier this month.

There have also been reports of urban drones interrupting the flight paths of aircraft or hitting high-voltage power lines.

According to Ke Yubao, executive secretary-general of the association, the detection and collision-alert systems on small drones are not good enough to avoid dense clusters of buildings and electricity cables. "A collision and crash will compromise the safety of people on the ground," Ke said.

DJI Technology Co, the world's biggest drone maker, based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, is one of the companies turning to the rural market.

In November, it released its first farm drone product, which can spray pesticides over up to 4 hectares of land every hour-40 times more efficient than manual spraying.

Wang Fan, the company's public relations officer, said: "DJI achieved initial success with an unmanned aerial vehicle product in Europe. We only brought the product to the Chinese market after it gained popularity worldwide.

"For farm drones, however, we are starting with the domestic market."

The market logic is simple for the company-an aging society combined with fast urbanization has caused labor shortages in rural areas.

Wang Jinfu, vice-president of Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co Ltd, based in Changsha, Hunan province, said the mechanization of agricultural production has developed in line with expansion of production in the sector. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, by the end of last year the total area of arable land transfers reached 26.87 million hectares, enabling 3.41 million households to operate large areas of farmland.

"The standardized and mechanized production of agricultural products will ... enable more farmers to transfer to other sectors," Wang was quoted by Xinhua as saying last month.